Guest blog from Sandra Bell at Friends of the Earth: Govt considering scrapping ban on Neonicotinoids

I’m reblogging this post from Sandra Bell at Friends of the Earth. The NFU are trying to overturn the ban on neonicotinoids, and the regulatory group is considering their proposal today.

7 reasons why the Government must not allow bee-harming pesticides back on our farms

Sandra Bell

13 June 2016

Bright yellow oilseed rape flowers are buzzing with bees but in some fields the bees may get a dose of banned bee-harming insecticide as they feed because of decisions made last year.

And any day now the Government is about to decide whether to allow neonicotinoids back on our farms again this year.

Tell the Environment Secretary to protect our bees

Three neonicotinoids pesticides have been banned from use on flowering crops by the European Commission because they are harmful to bees.  But last year the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), backed by pesticide companies, persuaded the Government to let farmers use them on oilseed rape crops in four English counties.  In those counties crops grown from pesticide laced seeds are flowering in the fields now.

Soon farmers will be ordering their seeds to plant this autumn.  And the NFU, backed by the pesticide companies, is again asking the Government to allow farmers to plant oilseed rape seeds coated in bee-harming neonicotinoids. We can’t tell you which counties are included, or the evidence being considered, because the documents are being kept secret from the public and even MPs.

The health of our bees is important to all of us.  It’s unacceptable for decisions affecting them to be taken in the dark.  That’s why we have published our evidence to the Government at the bottom of this blog.

Seven reasons why the Government should say No to the NFU

  1. We can’t afford to gamble with our bees.  We have an amazing 267 species of bees in the UK, the honey bee is just one species and our wild bees – solitary and bumblebees – pollinate more of our crops.
  2. The evidence keeps mounting up with more and more independent scientific studies showing that neonicotinoids have negative impacts on bees.  For example, a study in Sweden found that neonicotinoid treated seeds in real field conditions had negative effects on wild bees.
  1. Crops have done fine without neonics.  The average UK oilseed rape yield actually increased by 6.9% last harvest (the first without access to neonics) showing that the NFU’s predictions of widespread crop damage have been unfounded. And this figure already accounts for any fields lost to pest damage.
  2. There are better, more bee friendly ways to protect crops. Research for Friends of the Earth found that there are effective non-chemical ways of controlling pests in oilseed rape.These include encouraging beneficial insects – the bugs that will eat crop pests for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Measures to entice these farmer’s friends include planting wildflower strips and hedgerows – which will also boost nature on our farmland.  Ploughing fields less and sowing seeds earlier have been also shown to help too.  Spraying more with other pesticides will just make matters worse – killing the friendly bugs.
  3. Neonics cannot be contained.  The NFU says that seed treatments are a “targeted” means of applying pesticides.  But the reality is that most of the chemical – over 90% – enters the environment rather than the crop.  That’s not targeted and its deeply worrying because neonicotinoids are turning up in wildflowers and hedgerows planted next to treated arable fields giving bees and other pollinators another dose of these harmful substances.There is also evidence that neonics entering the soil may be harming earthworms – which are essential for healthy soils.
  4. There is little evidence that neonics work well.  The NFU say they are essential to stop crops being destroyed by cabbage stem flea beetle.  In fact research last year showed that where treated seeds had been used as a result of the emergency authorisation crop damage from flea beetles was pretty much the same as in fields where no treatment was used.
  5. Slugs are not just an annoyance to gardeners.  Last year slugs caused as much damage to oilseed rape as cabbage stem flea beetles.  Neonicotinoids do not control slugs and could even be making the problem worse by harming the insects on the farm that feed on slugs.

The NFU seems determined that banned bee harming chemicals will be allowed on our fieldsThey’ve asked the Government once already this year and failed, now they are back with another proposal.

We’ve submitted our case against the application and we’re not keeping it a secret. We are happy for our evidence to stand up to public and scientific scrutiny.

Read our report on farming oilseed rape without neonicotinoids.

Read our letter to Prof Ian Boyd, the DEFRA Chief Scientific Advisor.

Read our submission to the Expert Committee on Pesticides, opposing a second application.

The Government’s expert advisers meet on 14th June but it’s the Secretary of State for the Environment Liz Truss that will make the final deicison. 

Please help make sure that Liz Truss does not allow bee harming pesticides back in our fields.

About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and not my employers. I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in Friends of the Earth, Neonicotinoids, NFU and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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